Now, with an ever-increasing amount of money distorting scientific studies and policy, voting with your portfolio seems necessary to guarantee a future both you and your descendants can enjoy. The question: Just how bad is corporate influence in science?
Answer: pretty bad
The Union of Concerned Scientists published a report last month detailing "How Corporations Corrupt Science at the Public's Expense." It includes many tales of corporate malfeasance -- all stunning in their immoral behavior, but none scarier than those surrounding the drugs we take.
For example, according to the report, GlaxoSmithKline
The UCS report also accuses companies of manipulating the studies themselves. It cites one case involving Merck
It gets worse. The report says that Pfizer
But it's not new
Of course, corporate influence on science and the resulting policy isn't new. The tobacco industry fought scientific studies for years. As a famous memo from Brown & Williamson, now a part of Reynolds American
Big tobacco wasn't the only industry involved in fighting science. In the 1960s, one Dr. Irving Selikoff was researching asbestos and its link to cancer. Asbestos companies hired public relations firms to attack Dr. Selikoff because, as a company memo stated, "Our present concern is to find some way of preventing Dr. Selikoff from creating problems and affecting sales."
In 1976, Ethyl Corporation, a maker of gasoline additives and now a subsidiary of NewMarket
How to fight it
The societal costs that we pay from the corporate corruption of science outweigh any stock gains. There are several steps that Congress can take to protect our future, like strengthening whistleblower protection laws and placing further restrictions to limit conflicts of interest and the revolving door between the public and private sector.
As investors, we can also take our money out of corporations that put profits above morals and place it in sustainable companies that factor in the costs to society. These sustainable firms not only benefit society, but also have been shown to beat the returns of unsustainable companies by 4.8 percentage points annually from 1993 to 2010.
For a few ideas on sustainable companies to support, check out Fool Alyce Lomax's portfolio. Also, read our free report on companies that plan for the long term: "3 Stocks That Will Help You Retire Rich."
Fool contributor Dan Newman holds no shares of the companies mentioned above. Follow him @TMFHelloNewman. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.